February 24th, 2012
12:08 AM ET

Letters to the President #1131: 'Au revoir...uh...kid'

Reporter's Note: I have written a letter to the president every single day since he was inaugurated. Now, that’s persistence.

Dear Mr. President,

The New York Times contained an interesting article this week about how the French have eliminated the term mademoiselle from federal government forms. Up until now, most official documents allowed people to check one of three boxes; monsieur, madame, or mademoiselle. Some women objected because they found something inherently unfair in requiring, or even suggesting, that young women should reveal whether they are married or not…which, the term mademoiselle does.

So with little or no fanfare, the term has vanished from the forms, and perhaps that is the first step toward it vanishing from the French lexicon.

I understand the complaint of the women who were bothered by the term, and I won’t raise any gripe against it. In part because I’m not French. And also because, even if I were, who would care?

Still, in an odd way, I hate to see all the mademoiselles go. I don’t speak much French, but it seems a pretty language in the mouths of others, and that particular word always struck me as elegant, lilting, and…well, respectful. Maybe it’s because I was a kid when I first heard it, and I was impressed with the idea of any young person, male or female, being given a title. Imagine that!

But like I said, clearly others heard something else in the word, and I shant go to “guerre” with them. After all, perhaps some new and wonderful word was created somewhere in the world this week which I have yet to learn, and which may one day delight me even as I miss the misses.


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